Gift provides start-up funding for Elon Academy

A gift by Douglas G. and Edna Truitt Noiles of New Canaan, Conn., will provide start-up funding for the Elon Academy, an enrichment program at Elon University for academically talented students in the Alamance-Burlington school system who may not be considering attending college. Details...

Doug and edna noilesThe academy, which will begin in summer 2007, will admit approximately 25 rising sophomores each summer. The year-round program will combine three intensive four-week summer residential experiences at Elon University with a variety of academic and enrichment activities throughout the school year.

Edna Noiles and her five sisters were raised in Alamance County and attended Elon. She is a 1944 Elon alumna. The Noiles’ $220,000 lead gift is in line with their belief that early intervention is the key to improving education and giving bright young learners the best start possible.

“There is so much excitement in learning when you have the opportunity –young kids are naturally curious,” said Doug Noiles. “So we’re reaching out wherever we can. By supporting the Elon Academy, we’re showing people that education can be better. It is my hope to see a related local effort directed toward K-5, because these younger children are the most open and eager to learn.”

“We believe a good education is a child’s birthright, and what binds us together now is that recognition,” said Edna Noiles. “History shows that the solution to problems frequently starts locally. Responding to the need to educate children through the Elon Academy gives us a sense of being a part of something larger than ourselves. We are encouraged and energized and are happy to be part of it.”

Nan Perkins, vice president for institutional advancement, said the Noiles are making a gift that will open doors for students who otherwise might not consider college as an option. “Their commitment to education and to future generations of students is embodied in this generous gift,” Perkins said. 

Elon has received more than 400 requests for applications from rising sophomores at Cummings, Eastern Alamance, Graham, Southern Alamance, Western Alamance and Williams high schools, says Deborah Long, associate professor of education and faculty administrative fellow who is directing the academy’s creation. Eligible students must have a desire to succeed, be willing to commit to the three-year program, demonstrate academic promise, have no history of disciplinary problems, and demonstrate financial need or have no family history of college attendance. The first class of students will be selected in March.

By the third year of the program, a total of about 70 students will be enrolled in the academy. All students will be enrolled in the Elon Academy at no cost.

“Programs such as this are only possible through the vision and commitment of exceptional people such as the Noiles,” Long said. “We hope that their gift will inspire other individuals, businesses and organizations to contribute the ongoing annual support that will be necessary for the Elon Academy to continue operating and provide opportunities for Alamance County students.”

Modeled after similar programs at Princeton, Furman and Vanderbilt universities, the Elon Academy will include academic programs in math, English, social studies, science and technology. Elon faculty members will serve as lead teachers in each of these areas. Other faculty and staff members will work with students on college planning and counseling, arts and cultural programs, health and social skills, and community service and leadership. Elon students will serve as counselors to the academy students, providing support and encouragement during the summer session and throughout the school year. The academy’s first summer session is scheduled for June 17-July 14.

Doug and Edna Noiles are among Elon’s most generous benefactors. In 2003, the couple made a $1 million gift to endow the Vera Richardson Truitt Center for Religious and Spiritual Life on campus. The Truitt Center supports programs and internships that allow Elon students to explore a variety of religious and spiritual traditions and to make lifelong commitments to creating spiritually enriching communities. An earlier $100,000 scholarship donation by the Noiles supported the Ashton P. and Vera R. Truitt Scholarship Fund, which Edna Noiles established with her sisters in 1997 to honor their parents.

Edna Noiles is a former marriage and family counselor who has studied in a two-year program at the Shalem Institute of Spiritual Formation. For the past 16 years, she has been receiving and giving spiritual direction.

Doug Noiles, a 1944 graduate of Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), is co-founder and former executive vice president of Joint Medical Products Corp. of Stamford, Conn. He led the company’s technical efforts in the development of medical implants used in hip and knee replacements. He has been granted more than 100 patents.

The couple have supported similar outreach programs at WPI, and in Connecticut. The couple said they hope students in the Elon Academy recognize that someone cares about them.

“I hope these students can find hope that there will be a chance at life for them,” Edna said. “I think it’s up to us to give it to them.”

Doug said he hopes other donors will contribute to this worthy program.
“It doesn’t take a ton of money to get this going,” he said. “We want to see others recognize the need and step up and support it.”